Someone to Watch – Glass has a rendezvous with the new face of Bulgari’s time pieces, top model Jon Kortajarena
If Jon Kortajarena’s face seems familiar, it’s not you, it’s him. The 32-year-old Spanish model has been part of major fashion campaigns with the likes of Versace, Armani, Guess, Tom Ford, Karl Lagerfeld, Kenneth Cole and Roberto Cavalli. Kortajarena is regarded as one of the most important male models of all time. Today, his biggest collaboration involves Italian powerhouse Bulgari: he has worked together with them as the star of their fragrances, and they have now selected him as their new Bulgari Global Watches Ambassador.
In particular, Kortajarena seems to embody Bulgari’s new Octo timepiece: a sensual, unique beauty that’s as distinctive as it is refined. Catching up with Kortajarena during his end-of-season vacation, we talk about his role as Bulgari ambassador, confidence during his 30s and his love for a good Almodovar film.
What were you like as a boy and what did you want to grow up to be? I’ve read you were “convinced” to do modelling, is that true?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a painter, astronaut, supermarket cashier – I remember I loved the till as a machine. However these aspirations changed, I always saw myself as a kind of man that became more and more authentic. I grew up in a humble neighbourhood, and at 17 I didn’t really know that there was a fashion industry, let alone that I could be part of it. When I was first approached about it, they didn’t have to convince me too hard; I knew that a door out into the world had just opened. But I didn’t quite imagine the extent of it.
When you first started modelling, who did you look up to? Did you have a role model in the industry?
Esther Cañadas was the only model I knew and she drove me crazy. Life is funny, my first runway was with her. In fact, I walked right behind her on the runway. I remember how nervous I was during that first walk, and these even more riled up by her presence. She had that effect on me. That day, she turned and looked at me, and, as we started to talk, we hit it off to the point that today she’s one of my best friends. I went from having her on a pedestal for the incredible model she is, to admiring and enjoying her for who she is. It’s pretty cool.
What’s been your most challenging campaign?
I think the Tom Ford campaigns have been the biggest challenges. I’ve done 13 campaigns for them, and a few of them have been completely nude. That’s scary, especially at the beginning. Later on, I learnt that I was in the best possible hands to do it in an elegant – yet provocative – manner.
What’s it like being Bulgari’s watch ambassador? I’m sure there’s more to the job than wearing their pieces – how do you help the brand expand?
It’s a dream for me to work as a Bulgari ambassador. They taught me everything I needed to know about the world of watches. They made me understand the meaning of a good watch on a man and I’m happy to show the world the most exclusive ones. And now, thanks to them, I’m ambassador for Save the Children, which makes me a part of their enormous philanthropic efforts.
When I was about to turn 30, I thought the world was going to be over. There’s this really odd conception that one’s 30s are the end of youth, partly because the fashion industry promotes youth as ideal beauty, but really turning 30 felt no different from being in my 20s. Was that the same for you?
I’m better than ever. And people can see that. I’m more confident and secure, because I know so much more about life and about myself compared to when I was 20. Back in the day I was a baby, now I’m a man.
Naturally, biologically there’s a point where we have to take care of ourselves in ways we weren’t concerned about before, such as using creams and cosmetic products to help our skin. Do you have any skincare regimes to take care of yours?
Of course. I’m in my 30s, and I’m not expecting any miracles [he laughs]. I think we have to acknowledge the fact that nature and time make us age. That’s fine. But I think there are many variations of “getting old”, and our body and mind need help from us. I take care of my skin with creams and cosmetics, but also with food and exercise. I also go to therapy to keep my mind educated, focused and aware.
What about fitness regime? What’s a week in the life of Jon Kortajarena fitness-wise?
I run. It’s something that helps my body and my mind.
When you’re away working, what do you miss most about the Basque Country or Spain in general?
The food, my people, the language. Most of the time I translate jokes to English and they don’t make any sense. Well, actually, in Spanish they’re not that much better … [we laugh].
What’s one thing people underestimate about you?
I don’t know. I don’t care about people’s preconceptions. I only care about my people and they never underestimate me.
You’re an actor as well, and I read that you’d like to be in a Pedro Almodovar film. The guy’s a legend. What do you love most about an Almodovar film?
It would be a dream. He’s so talented and creative that the fact of being an actor would be worth it just if I could have the opportunity to work with someone that I respect so much. And on top of that, I feel I’ve grown up in an environment that would be fitting for one of his movies. I feel very much identified with his way of seeing life.
Compared to when I was a teenager, I think there’s been a lot more guys out there wanting to model. You see it a lot on Instagram – they take care of themselves and are into fashion without being concerned that their masculinity will be questioned. Do you think social media has helped the concept of masculinity to progress?
No, I think social media has boosted the narcissism in all of us. Being a man is not just about the look, it’s an attitude to life. These guys are trying to sell a mask to the world, and social media can be an amazing platform for it. For me, it’s part of the business. Now more people can see my work as soon as it comes out and that offers terrific exposure. And on top of that, people can see a little bit of my personality without sacrificing privacy and intimacy. At the end of the day, I choose what I post and what I feel comfortable sharing.
by Regner Ramos
Photographer: Łukasz Pukowiec
Taken from the Glass Archive issue 31 – Patience
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Styling STEVEN DOAN
Grooming PAUL DONOVAN at CLM
Photography assistant AGA KLARA ŁYSIAK
Styling assistants MIRRA WESNESKI, MAGALI FEDELE
Casting director SEONA TAYLOR-BELL
Production coordinator ANNA RYBUS at PROSPERO PRODUCTION
Post-production PAUL DROZDOWSKI
Coat, knit: VALENTINO
Polo neck BILLIONAIRE
Save the Children black ceramic and sterling silver pendant BULGARI
Leather jacket PAUL SMITH
Denim jacket ROBERTO CAVALLI
Trousers BOTTEGA VENETA
B.zero1 three-band ring in white gold BULGARI
Coat BOTTEGA VENETA
Jacket, trousers FENDI
Scarf THE KOOPLES
Octo Roma watch with 41 mm case in steel with a brown dial and brown alligator strap
Save the Children black ceramic and sterling silver pendant
B.zero1 three-band ring in white gold
Save the Children bracelet in silver and black ceramic
B.zero1 cuff in pink gold and steel, all BULGARI
Jacket, shirt, trousers BILLIONAIRE
Scarf stylist’s own
Octo Finissimo Skeleton watch with 40 mm case in titanium with a black dial and black alligator strap, B.zero1 three-band ring in white gold BULGARI